Heartbroken callers seeking help from the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) grew tenfold during the COVID-19 pandemic, as an expert said the crisis strained some relationships.
The NCMH’s crisis hotline received 2,656 love-related calls last year, almost 10 times the 276 pre-pandemic calls recorded in 2019, ABS-CBN News reported.
The hotline also responded to 2,087 calls linked to romantic relationships in 2021, and 711 love-related calls in 2020, the report added.
The center said calls related to romance and other problems averaged around 2,000 a month at the onset of the pandemic, up from 200 to 300 monthly calls before the COVID crisis.
“Overall, the pandemic had an impact on relationships. People experienced anxiety, which has the capacity to shape and strain a relationship. Anxiety can manifest as, for example, irritability, anger. So, some individuals are prone to argue more,” said Gizelle Tugade, program coordinator of the NCMH crisis hotline and Center for Wellness.
In-Touch, a non-profit organization that offers mental health services, observed a different trend in its crisis hotline.
It said it consistently recorded an increase in love and relationship-related problems in the month of February, with January having the second-highest calls.
In-Touch said it responded to around 6,000 calls when the pandemic struck, double the 3,000 pre-COVID yearly average. Calls related to love and relationships accounted for 3 to 15 percent of total calls in the whole year from 2019 to 2022, it said.
The most common concerns In-Touch recorded were communication, misunderstandings, and self-esteem and confidence.
In-Touch and NCMH both observed that there were more female callers than males.
With Valentine’s Day celebrated in February, romantic relationships are often highlighted in social media, television, and advertisements during the month, In-Touch crisis line coordinator Dominic Limjap said.
“It leads to the fact that we tend to be more aware and mindful of the quality of our own relationships. There may be cases which we tend to compare ourselves to other people, especially social media since, of course, always shows the positive. It does not show the negative parts of relationships, which is normal to have,” he said.
Tugade also pointed out that “novelty” is a “component [of] good relationships.” But due to COVID lockdowns, some relationships became “idle” and “stagnant”, with partners getting cold towards each other, she said.
Spending too much time together also takes away one’s “alone time” and “solitude,” which are important to a person’s psychological well-being, Tugade said.
Some couples who experienced long-distance relationships due tolockdowns also faced difficulties, Tugade said.
Problems crop up when people “spend too much [time] together or spendtoo much apart,” she said.
The most common love problems the NCMH observed were breakups andcheating. Other concerns included misunderstandings and conflict.
Tugade explained that despite the pandemic starting in 2020, theincrease in calls to the NCMH was not as notable then compared to thesucceeding years, because love-related problems were just starting toaccumulate. People were also more focused on survival in the firstyear of the pandemic.
“Callers are more often female. Maybe it has something to do withwomen being more open and mostly, they’re the ones who are leftbehind,” Tugade said.
Limjap agreed, saying society generally views females as more sensitive.
“But I think there’s a different reason leading to these numbers. Onthe flip side of that, society has certain expectations from males,from boys, that they’re not allowed to feel or cry,” he said.
For Tugade, couples should not pressure themselves into making grandgestures this Valentine’s Day.
“You’re not pressured to participate and you can show yourappreciation or your affection towards your partner in other ways,”she said.
The NCMH and In-Touch crisis lines can be reached through the following numbers:
NCMH crisis line numbers: 1800-1888-1553 Unlimited calls nationwidewith a one-time fee of P7.50; SMART / SUN / TNT: 0908-639-2672; GLOBE/ TM: 0966-351-4518; 0917-899-8727
In-Touch crisis line numbers: +63 2 8893 7603; +63 919 056 0709; +63917 800 1123; +63 922 893 8944.